Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Le Clos Jordanne----The Journey Continues

Comments On Le Clos Jordanne and 2006
Winemakers: Thomas Bachelder and Sebastien Jacquey
The vintage 2006 was not the easiest one to grow grapes and eventually make wine in! However, in the right hands, with careful selection, picking and winemaking even a rainy vintage can be made a success.
So it was with the wines of Clos Jordanne and this was evident at the introductory tasting/launch of the 2006 vintage that was held at Currie Hall (School for the National Ballet of Canada) at 105 Maitland Street East in Toronto.
Mr. Jay Wright, CEO and President of Vincor Canada, A Constellation Company, quoted Jean- Charles Boisset of Boisset La Famille des Grands Vins et Spiritueux-----a partner with Vincor in Le Clos as it is lovingly called in saying that at Le Clos Jordanne, there is a "sense of place"!
Indeed, when I first saw it, the vines had not been long in the ground and the vintages were but a dream for then CEO Donald Triggs and Jean-Charles. The vines are now mature and the concentric rows of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are a beautiful sight to see.
The wines also are a sight to behold from the beautifully designed bottles to the splendid examples of terroir---the Pinots and Chardonnays are among the best examples that exist either inside or outside of Burgundy.
"The 2000 or so cases that are made and distributed are sold out almost immediately," Wright continued, "I am very pleased to say that the wines are available in Tokyo, South East Asia and the United Kingdom. At the Four Seasons, the Village Reserve wines are sold by the glass."
One thing that this writer has noticed and in fact has pointed out in magazine articles (recently in "East of the City" magazine under the title, "The Changing Face Of Canadian Wine") that Canadians are showing a change in character so to speak in praising their own! The LCBO will be naming the Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve its "Wine Of The Month" for December. At $30 this quality wine is indeed a bargain!
Jean-Charles Boisset called the 2006 vintage "classy, elegant but also silky and powerful------a wine/vineyard that the more I taste and see; the more I get excited."
Why is this wine so good. First and foremost, the vineyard was well planned and laid out at the beginning. The best Burgundian clones were used on the best grafts possible for the soil underneath the vineyard. Also Organic/Bio dynamic farming is used. There are no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides used. Boisset describes it as "a way of letting the soil speak and encouraging Mother Nature to do her best----producing a wine that no where else exists!"
Boisset goes on to say that people through organic farming, become part of the terroir!
Thomas Bachelder, chief winemaker of Le Clos, reiterated the message! Everything being done by hand---"capturing the essence of the vineyard in the wine while on the trail of the terroir!"
Thomas touched on the fact that difficult years such as 2006 do not mean bad wine. "We react to the vineyard by allowing it to become what it will be!"
The Wines
Pinot Noir
Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve:
The Village Reserve is a blend of the Talon Ridge Vineyard from the Vinemount Ridge appelation and selected lots of Le Clos, La Petit and Claystone Vineyards from the Twenty Mile Bench.
The wine is cherry red in colour with a light sour cherry nose with hints of olive oil (minerality) and fresh cut wood shavings. On the palate, I found the wine young with a strong acidity and red fruit flavours. The lenght was medium to long with an excellent acid base . $30 Will be wine of the month at the LCBO in December. A must buy for any Pinot lover!
Le Clos Jordanne La Petite Vineyard:
Situated on sandy soil, this vineyard is quite small (3.5 acres) but delivers some of the most perfumed wines in Le Clos generally. Elegant and stylish with floral and berry bouquet it has rich red fruit on the palate with less minerality than the other vineyards but a good acidity that remains on the finish. The acidity will intergrate further with the wine in time to make this wine a lovely piece of art. If I was to describe it in cat terms, this would be the sleek and refined Cheetah to that of a roaring Lion or the Village Reserve's Leopard. $40
Claystone Terrace:
This writer loves roaring Lions to be and Claystone comes out punching. Power is its name and though there are more powerful wines (it is Pinot of course) one cannot deny the punch. Dark in colour and somewhat closed to the nose but a note of mineral and dark fruit. There is an edge to this wine that shows upcoming character and on the palate it is very pleasing. It still needs some time to integrate but already has red and dark fruit flavours of cherry, blackberry, pepper spice with the hope of things to come. Definitely my favourite of the whole group as it tells you who it is and where it comes from. $40 (well worth it and I plan to get some!)
Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard:
Not far from Claystone is the above vineyard. It is a different wine. Not as dark as the Claystone nor as elegant as La Petit, Le Clos Jordanne falls somewhere in between. It is the potential to be more complex than its peers being both powerful and elegant. It is the sleek and stylish Black Panther compared to the Lion and the Cheetah. The wine has a foreward fragrance of roses and wild flowers. A mixture of ripe cherrys and a touch of black berry mingle with a touch of citrus on the palate. These with a background of minerality give the wine a lovely mouthfeel that has an excellent lenght to it. Again there is the acidity that I have noticed with all the Le Clos Reds. $40
Le Clos JordanneLe Grand Clos:
Potentially the longest lived on the Clos Jordanne Wines (probably a toss up between Claystone), this wine does not want to reveal itself right away and will need time to develop. It would be a shame to purchase this wine and drink it until there is about a year or two (probably closer to the two) for it to integrate and develop. I noticed a strong minerality and some floral and fruit on the nose (mainly dark), some smoke and tobacco was also present. There was the same sense on the palate though there are definitely expressions of what is to come. It is not a roaring lion that reveals where it is but a silent Tiger waiting to pounce and show that it is the most powerful. Who would win? That depends on who you, the taster, are! $70
Le Clos Jordanne: Village Reserve :
One would expect that the Village Reserve being made up of several vineryards (Talon, Claystone, Le Clos Jordanne) it would be foreward and ready to drink---after all it is the least expensive. Not so! The wine though very pleasant especially on the palate (apple, pear, butter along with citrus) comes through very slowly on the nost indicating that there is much anticipated development to come. $30
Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace:
This wine is definitely my favourite (as is the Claystone Pinot) and probably says something about my palate. Where the Village Reserve is a Hawk, the Claystone is a Bald Eagle. Again, it has power with very round full mouthfeel and strong fruit flavours of pear, melon and tempered citrus that are held together with a stone pebble mineral flintiness reminiscent of a great Chablis (though it is not a Chablis). Butter and butterscotch complete the taste with a wine that has amazing length. A Keeper! $40
Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard:
Not as powerful as Claystone, it seemed to have more colour and more elegant than the preceeding wine. Likened to a Peregrine Falcon it seems to have more finesse and style with a floral bouquet with a touch of vanilla and butter on the nose and light fruit flavours of pear, apple and lemon peel on the palate with an acidity and minerality on the finish. $40
Le Grand Clos:
If there were to be a Canadian Grand Cru Chablis but better, this would be it! Vanilla, pear, citus, butter give way to a strong mineral flintiness that can be described as edgy to say the least. This Harpy Eagle of a wine needs time, and if given it, will reward with lucious flavours that at this time can only be imagined. $65

The Event Meal:
What does one eat with such wines? The answer of course is "Burgundy Style!"
How about what was served after the above tasting!
French Bread and Organic Salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella, basil in balsamic)
Side Entrees!
Mashed Potatoes with Parsnips and Parsley
Roasted Rood Vegetables
Braised Brussel Sprouts and Chestnuts,
Green Beans Provencal and Garlic.
Main Entrees!
Duck Leg Confit with Tomato Chutney and Herb Garnish
Beef Bourguignon
Halibut Filet in Mushroom Cream Sauce
Mini French Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee
Poached Pears with a Chantilly Cream Sauce

The event ended well with Wine Food and Travel writer Alex Eerspaecher taking a few shots of this writer together with Jean-Charles Bosset of "La Famille des Grands Vins et Spiritueux".
This writer decided to enjoy the salad and bread with a touch of the Village Reserve Chardonnay and enjoyed the main meal with the Village Reserve Pinot Noir.
The wines of Le Clos Jordanne can be purchased "on line" as of October 15th (only in Ontaria). Please go to to view website and also to order.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thanksgiving Has Many Desirable Aspects

I can't believe that it's October and Thanksgiving is now upon us. This has been one tremendously exciting Thanksgiving so far. The week of October 6th started out well with the Madeira tasting that Greg Rist and I attended in Toronto. The following day found me in Prince Edward County visiting some of my favourite wineries and seeing what they were up to. My favourites happen to be those of Norman Hardie and Long Dog. The Pinots and Chards made there are exceptional. October 8th was just a catch up day and also a preparatory day for my first appearance on Midday----the new talk show on Rogers.
The show was pretaped at 11 am and the reason for my appearance was, of course, Thanksgiving. I wanted to use wines between $9 and $20 that would (each) go well as part of the menu or if so chosen, the whole meal.
My choices were as follows: French Cross Rose Sparkling, Jackson Triggs Proprietors' Grand Reserve Chardonnay, Konzelmann Riesling M/D, Jackson Triggs Delaine Vineyard Pinot Noir, Luigi Bosca Malbec, Inniskillin Late Harvest Riesling.
I was going to choose a Cave Springs Off Dry Riesling instead of the Konzelmann but for some reason, I chose the latter and I'm glad I did since just before my taping I watched as Roger Ouellette and his lovely wife---both of "Cuisine In Motion" prepare a marvellous meal on the show. Their wine of choice----------Cave Spring Cellars Riesling!
I had met Roger some years ago when my wife and I were invited to his home to a superb dinner. I have never forgotten it and would love to touch base with the Ouelettes again! Anyhow, their show was well done and my turn came.
Really, seven minutes is not long enough to do a super job but The discussion with Casia, the hostess of the show, centred around the meal. Turkey it was decided is very forgiving but a couple of things would make it better. The Sparkling Rose was used as an aperitif though at a pinch it could cover the whole meal. The rest of the food/wine match was elementary. If the Turkey had a butter base such as Butterball brands and especially if the sauce was creamy, I suggested the Chardonnay which was barrel fermented and aged. Roast Turkey with a fruit or berry dressing was a good venue for Riesling while Roast Turkey with veggie trimmings was a good Pinot Noir base. Roast Turkey with heavy gravy and stuffing however needed a powerful wine such as the Malbec from Argentina and dessert----Late Harvest was a definite shoe in for Pumpkin Pie or Mince Meat.
The show endured and ended. I went off to visit Tino Fazio who was not at his restaurant.
The following day was spent picking up wines for some clients and delivering said wines.
Saturday, October 11th was my family's day for Thanksgiving. Darlene's parents came over as did my other daughter Marisa and her husband Giraldo. They brought the pie. Daughter Taryn was working at the barn that day but she came home early enough to get prepared for the banquet to follow. Darlene put on her usual show of round the clock veggies etc. This time she went out of her way to make sure that there was enough for all by buying two turkeys.
The wines used were exactly the wines that I had for the show with one exception. We used Magnotta Harvest Moon Vidal for the dinner---having polished off the Inniskillin earlier on that day (One has to live n'est-ce pas?) I also bought a bottle of Laphroiag Single Malt Scotch for----------me but have not had the chance to zero in on it yet!
I could go on to talk about how great the wines were. I know that the Sparkling Rose started the evening off very well! Sparklers---especially in flute glasses---have a way of livening up the evening. The other wines were all shared----some were appreciated more than others but as a general rule, all were liked---unless you did as Darlene's father did. He enjoyed the luscious sweetness of the Late Harvest and then went back to the great bottle of Luigi Bosca Malbec. No matter how great a wine is reputed to be, one never---never drinks a very sweet wine prior to a dry and somewhat tannic red especially a Malbec. It just does not work. Darlene's father did not work either. Complained about it for the rest of the evening----Ah Life!
Tuesday is the beginning of a new week which will see me at the Le Clos Jordanne dinner tasting in Toronto at the National Ballet School. Should be fun!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Madeira Is Exceptional Anyway you Put It!

Greg Rist, Producer at Rogers Television is always a fun guy to hang around with and yesterday was no exception. Greg and I met up at the Oshawa station and took off to The University Club Of Toronto located at 380 University Avenue, Toronto for a Madeira Tasting.
Geography and History
Known as the "Pearl of the Atlantic", tropical like Madeira is actually an Archipelago in the Atlantic that is made up of the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo, Desertas and Selvagens. The only inhabited islands are Madeira and Porto Santo while the other two are Bird Sanctuaries. The climate with ample sun, rainfall, spring like (between 60 and 80 degrees Farenheit) and lush vegetation make it a must for tourists.
The volcanic Archipelago, which is in the North Atlantic about 375 miles NW of Africa and 600 miles SSW of Portugal, was discovered in 1419 by Portuguese seamen (Remember Prince Henry in your studies?) and has since been a part of Portugal. Joao Goncalves Zarco and Tristao Vaz Teixeira both Portuguese sea captains followers of the mighty Navigator, Henry are credited with the colonization of this jewel. The rest, so to speak was history!
Colonizers (basically merchants and nobility) cleared the land and built water systems. They planted sugarcane, vines and wheat and within 25 years of their coming, were exporting wine. Madeira was an immediate hit and was enjoyed by such historic figures as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Marshall (Chief Justice 1800) and Winston Churchill enjoyed it. The U.S.S. Constitution was christen with it in 1797 (It still floats to this day) and the brother of King Edward The Fourth of England was even executed in it!!!!
Madiera wine was initially fortified with sugar cane distillate in order for it to survive the long voyages to places such as India and East Indies. The wine, which was kept in barrels stacked in the ship's hold, went through changes being transformed by the actual voyage and tremendous heat that accumulated there. A movement that liked the taste of this wine grew and began preferring it. Since it was quite costly to send ships on expeditions just to develop the wine, more inexpensive methods where developed. These methods involve heating the wine in stainless steel vats with temperature of 113 degrees to 122 degrees Farenheit (45 to 50 degrees Centigrade) for periods of no less than 3 months and then let rest for 90 days or Canteiro where the wines are placed in barrel casks (usually French Oak) and stored in the top floors of the wine cellars where great heat accumulates. Here the wines remain for two years. The wines go through an oxidizing process and can be sold once three years elapses.
Depending on the style of wine that the wine maker wants to have, the wine fermentation is usually stopped by the adding of almost pure alcohol. The wines can be a blend or single varietal with vintage wine having 85% of the grapes come from the same harvest and in the case of a single variety wine (i.e. Malvvasia or Malmsey) 85 % being of that variety.
Madeira wines are classified as Dry, Medium Dry, Medium Rich or Rich. These levels usually coincide with the grape varieties used such as Sercial (dry), Verdelho (M/D), Boal (Rich/Sweet) or Malvasia (Rich/Very Sweet) though other grapes such as Negra Molle, Terrantez, Complexa, Bastardo and Moscatel. There may references describing the colour and richness (fino (fine), Aveludado (velevty), Macio (soft) in the wines.
The Event
The University Club of Toronto is a palatial looking building that is surrounded by modern Toronto. The building was built in 1929and is full of historical artifacts, bronze statues. The elaborate Greco Roman frescoes, columns and high ceilings depict a time when great pride was taken in one's education and degree. It's Neo-Georgian style of architecture was made in the tradition of London's (England) Boodle's Building.
There to meet Greg and I was William Delgado of the Portuguese Trade Commission was there to greet us and introduce us to the winery owners, winemakers and officials at this tasting.
Descended from some of the original colonists in the 15th Century and established in 1850, the family of Henriques & Henriques--Vinhos continues the 500 year history of making fine wine.
The Madeira Wine Company can be traced back to 1913 and the family of Vinhos Justino Henriques, Filhos has been established since 1870. These enterprises produced a cornucopia of wines that were amazing on the palate. Julio Fernandes of Vinhos Justino Henriques, Filhos took me on a journey through the various forms of Madeira starting with the Fine Dry Light Coloured 3 year Madeira to the Fine Dry 10 year, Fine Rich 3 year, Fine Rich 10 year, Malmsey 10 year old and finally the Justino Madeira Colheita 1995 which was truly amazing.
I found that even the Fine Dry sample to be somewhat fruity and sweeter than expected but dry enough with good acidity to be refreshing on the palate. The fine dry 10 year old was more elegant but equally refreshing. The two Fine Rich where higher in body and I denoted more caramel sweetness on the palate on a progressive scale. The Malmsey 10 year old was full bodied with sweet fig, burnt sugar, caramel and toffee nuances. Finally, the Justino Madeira Colheita 1995 was dark, elegant and aromatic with some magnificent flavours of dry fruit, toffee, coffee, nuts. Sweet with a lasting mouth feel.
I tasted other wines from the other contributors and came out with a super feeling of satisfaction. My satisfaction was even more pleased when I met Alex (Eberspaecher) at the tasting. Alex agreed to do a television interview concerning Madeira---informing the viewers of its history and formation. Always full of knowledge he continues to be ever productive in the wine and travel business. One point, Alex will never admit this but he is also a fine cook. He informed me that sprinkling Madeira on a roast, brings out the flavour and add much to it. So take it from the Alex and do so!
Conrad Ejbich well known for his writing and columns also dropped by to "learn more about Madeira". Here is a guy who could rightfully say he is an "expert's expert" when it comes to wine and food but insists he is on a quest for knowledge. Aren't we all! In fact, he is well respected by his peers and public alike. We all could stand much to learn from his example.
Greg and I finalized our trip by taking shots of us drinking some very expensive Blandy's Baul 1977 Madeira (light amber gold, sweet with lucious dry fig fruit and honey flavours tempered with live acidity. The wine had a great refreshing finish that lasted and lasted) with hostess Aniko (Pronounced A-nee-ko) I think that is the way she spelled it. On our way home, Greg suggested passing by his home for a fine lamb dinner co-assisted by his beautiful wife, Helen!
So ended a very eventful day!

Monday, October 6, 2008

What An Amazing Week!

Last week was truly an amazing week---so amazing that I'm just inputting my blog now! It started off with a bang on Sunday September 28th when I went over to Ocala Winery to survey the vineyard and pay my respects to Irwin Smith, owner/winemaker at Ocala. Irwin is indeed one of finest people I know and his wines just keep on getting better and better. He certainly made a liar out of me many times over. I wasn't certain how well his winery would do when he planted grapes (hybrids and vinifera) at his winery some years ago but the fact is that he has made a great success and has not looked back. The big pat on the back for Irwin was his getting a V.Q.A. designation several years ago. If the V.Q.A. with all its rigid rules, regulations and regality said he was okay, then he must be okay.
On Monday, It was off to Niagara-on-the-Lake to visit some wineries. It's always great to get to that part of the Golden Horseshoe but the ride can be a bit monotonous. I sometimes wish that I had a Star Trek Transporter available for such trips. I can't say enough how the wines of 2007 are going to be magnificent. Forget the French and every one else for that matter, when it comes to 2007 buy Ontario Reds and Whites. The reds will last for a long, long time and the whites will be as good.
Tuesday September 30th saw me driving again to Mississauga for lunch where I met with John Hayes and Shirley Hall of BMO Nesbitt Burns. Joining us were Alex Eberspaecher and John's charming wife!
We had the usual excellent lunch at the Elliott House composed of Filet Mignon and all the trimmings. Shirley had fish and the rest of us the fillet! For the meal, I brought a Luigi Bosca Red Malbec from Argentina. I have already sang the praises of this wine imported by Pacific Wines and Spirits. 2000 cases were imported and all are gone. I managed to get three cases and it was a deal believe me. The wine with its coffee, berry and spice taste went excellent with the meat and veggies. For the fish I brought Shirley a Magnotta Medium Dry Riesling. It went well.
Alex brought a Jackson Triggs Late Harvest Vidal with him for the dessert. The wine as with most J-T products was excellent----still having good acidity to compensate for the fruity sweetness of what a Late Harvest Wine must have. Interestingly enough the comments were that the group preferred LHW to Icewines. The price certainly is more reasonable though we must keep in mind how labour intensive the making of Icewine is!
Alex astounded the group with his vast knowledge of wine. You can tell that this man truly enjoys his vocation and loves to share it with people. I must encourage all those who have not a copy, to find one of his Vino Veritus books. Here he doesn't just write about wine and how to drink it. Instead he writes about his adventures in winedom. This is what wine really is----an adventure. For those who want a copy, contact Alex at his website !
On Wednesday October 1st, I was off again to the Chile wine tasting held at the Distillery District in Toronto. Patrick Olive, Commissioner of Economic Development and Tourism came with me and met some of his counterparts from Chile. The wines were utterly amazing. Chile must be getting close to be one of (if not the best) producer of high quality inexpensive wines in the world. The bottles of high quality wine ranging between $9.00 and $20.00 were very plentiful. Both reds (especially Carmenere) and white showed well. Some magnificent wines of the more expensive variety (between $35 and $100) would make some of the ultra expensive wines from other parts of the world blush in embarrassment!
Some of the wines that impressed me were: Santa Alicia Carmenere Grand Reserva 2005 ($18.95), Carmenere Reserva 2007 ($11.95) and an excellent Rose Reserva 2007 ($10.95). Of the rose, Alex said that it reminded him of the smell and freshness when one visits a winery. Me, it reminded me of a seaside resort with an informal meal coming up. Regardless it was excellent.
Tony Aspler was impressed with Alaviva 2005 thoough it was one of the more expensive ones at $95. (Vintages). Mine was the Tres Palacios Carmenere $46.63 (not on market yet). The tasting revealed that Chile was indeed one of the best wine countries in the world.
Thursday October 2nd was another day that saw me going over to Fazio's Ristorante and spending some time with Tino Fazio. Tino is always one terrific host and brightens up a day with his enthusiasm. He also has a refined palate that is sometimes amazing.
Friday saw me visiting him again regarding my latest article in East of the City and I also had the pleasure of running into Kerri King and Pat Olive though I couldn't stay long as I had been researching a Christmas wine article.
This week is more of the same! Today its with Greg Rist where we are taping a show at the Madeira Tasting at University of Toronto and on Thursday I'm doing a tape at Roger's in Oshawa concerning Thanksgiving Wines. Who knows what else holds an adventure.